William Hurt was a stage, screen and television actor who won an Academy Award for best actor in Kiss of The Spider Woman, was nominated three other times for Academy Awards and starred in many popular films including Children of a Lesser God, Body Heat, The Big Chill, and Broadcast News.
On March 13, 2022, at age 71, he died from an aggressive prostate cancer that was first diagnosed ten years earlier in 2012, when it had already spread to his bones. He suffered terribly since he did not want to take pain killers because of his previous history of addiction to drugs and alcohol.
His Progression Through the Years
Hurt was born in 1950 in Washington, D.C., the son of a career diplomat and an employee of Time, Inc. When he was six years old, his parents divorced and his mother married Henry Luce III, the son of the founder of Time magazine. Hurt went to Middlesex School in Concord, Massachusetts, where he joined the Dramatics Club and was featured in many school productions. At Tufts University he studied theology, but then switched to acting at the Juilliard School.
By age 20, he was already acting in major plays on Broadway. His first film was Altered States in 1980, quickly followed by Body Heat, Kiss of the Spider Woman, and many other starring roles in the 1980s. Over his long acting career he appeared in more than 70 movies and numerous TV and stage productions. For Kiss of the Spider Woman, he earned a best actor award at the Cannes Film Festival in addition to his Oscar and several other awards.
His two marriages both ended in divorce. He had four children, two with one wife and two from unmarried relationships. He had a long-term relationship with a dancer, and won a 1989 court case that ruled he was not married to her. Another woman claimed that he treated her with physical and verbal abuse, but he denied ever hitting her. Several women accused him of violence. He drank heavily, and went in and out of the Betty Ford clinic for rehabilitation. In one court case, he was described as “a violent drunk who was prone to religious hallucinations”.
Prostate Cancer Diagnosis
Virtually all men will develop prostate cancer if they live long enough, but unlike most other cancers, prostate cancer tends to grow very slowly and does not kill the majority of men who have it. More than 180,000 North American men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer each year but only a very small percentage will die from it. A review of 29 studies showed that five percent of men already have prostate cancer at age 30, while 60 percent of men will have that cancer by age 80 (Int J Cancer, 2015 Oct 1; 137(7): 1749-1757).
Prostate cancer is not likely to kill a person until it has spread to other parts of his body. In the United States, the average age for men when first diagnosed is 66. The 5-year and 10-year survival rates for men with prostate cancer are 98 percent. For people diagnosed with prostate cancer that has spread to other parts of the body, the 5-year survival rate is 30 percent (American Cancer Society’s (ACS) Cancer Facts & Figures, February 2021).
William Hurt had a very aggressive type of prostate cancer. By the time he was first diagnosed in 2012, his prostate cancer had already spread to his bones, which indicated that he had a fast-growing cancer that would be likely to kill him. A pathologist diagnoses prostate cancer by looking at biopsied prostate cells under a microscope (Modern Pathology, Jan 3, 2018;31:12–21), but doctors have to do other tests to tell if the cancer has spread.
Prostate Cancer and Heart Attacks Have the Same Risk Factors
All men should be told that the American Cancer Society and the American Urologic Association recommend that anyone with prostate cancer should be checked for heart attack risk factors (Circulation, 2010;121(6):833-840) and be put on a lifestyle heart attack prevention program (Circulation, 2016;133(5):537-541). This could save a lot of lives because prostate cancer is usually a slowly progressive disease and men with prostate cancer are more likely to die from a heart attack. Ten years after being diagnosed with prostate cancer, the vast majority of men will survive whether they were treated with surgery, radiation, or “watchful waiting” where they were followed and not treated unless their cancer progressed (New England Journal of Medicine, September 14, 2016). See Prostate Cancer and Heart Attacks Share Lifestyle Factors
More than 50 percent of men diagnosed with prostate cancer suffer from uncontrolled risk factors for heart attacks (JAMA Netw Open, Feb 24, 2021;4(2):e210070), and almost 30 percent of these high risk patients received no medication or treatment to help prevent a heart attack and its association with cancer progression. Common laboratory indicators of both heart attack and prostate cancer risk include:
• blood pressure higher than 140/90 mm Hg,
• LDL cholesterol higher than130 mg/dL
• hemoglobin A1c (an indicator of diabetes) over 5.7
Lifestyle to Reduce Inflammation
An anti-inflammatory lifestyle helps to treat prostate cancer and prevent heart attacks. Inflammation means that your immune system is active all the time. Your immune system is supposed to be good for you because it prevents germs from getting into your bloodstream, and it seeks out and destroys the millions of defective cells (cancer cells) that everybody produces every day. However, an overactive immune system (too much inflammation) can use its cells and proteins to attack and destroy the DNA in healthy cells, altering them so they may become cancer cells that can overgrow, invade healthy tissue and kill you.
Most recent research shows that an anti-inflammatory lifestyle reduces risk for both developing and dying from prostate cancer. Prostate cancer occurs more often in people with lifestyles that cause inflammation, and people who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer live longer when they adopt anti-inflammatory lifestyles. A 10-year follow-up study showed that men with prostate cancers that are most likely to kill them (Gleason scores 7-10) live longer when they adopt an anti-inflammatory diet (Int J Cancer, May 31, 2016). The Gleason score is a grading system for how abnormal the cells from a prostate biopsy look under a microscope, on a scale from 1-10.
Prostate cancer will affect virtually all men if they live long enough, and heart attacks are the leading cause of death in North America today. Since heart attacks and prostate cancer have the same risk factors, all men should adapt to an anti-inflammatory lifestyle at the earliest age possible:
• Eat a diet that is high in anti-inflammatory foods and low in pro-inflammatory foods
• Get enough vitamin D
• Avoid tobacco
• Restrict or avoid alcohol
• Avoid high blood sugar levels
• Avoid being overweight
• Try to exercise every day
William McChord Hurt
March 20, 1950 – March 13, 2022